The Perch Inn
- Food and drink
Miraculously this was my first time coming to The Perch, drawn out to Binsey by the Irregular Folk Summer Sessions Weekender; it won’t be my last visit. We spent most of the time inside due to the afternoon’s driving rain, but my word would those gardens be stunning in the sunshine. Inside it’s quite like Wolvercote’s Jacob’s Inn for its relaxed affluence and gentrified country feel. There are expensive stoves in each end of the main building, to keep it cozy but unsooty, and appealing jenga-like logs stacked up to the ceiling that are too beautifully cut to have ever been intended for burning.
We were seated in a cushioned corner of a reasonably empty restaurant, though we were told we were lucky to get a table as they were pretty booked out for the rest of the Saturday afternoon/evening. Despite being near a speaker, the music wasn’t too loud and was actually a surprising and pleasing mix of Laura Marling, Birdy and nostalgic end-of-night country anthems.
We were attended to almost too immediately after being handed menus, and informed of the day’s specials, a goats cheese mousse to start, and an enormous steak (£25) or a whole lobster (£30) for the mains. The normal lunch/dinner menu had already caught our attention, however, and after a bit of dillydallying, the three of us decided to go for two starters to share. The Dorset crab on toast was uncomplicated and moreish on substantial brown soda bread, with some mixed leaves on the side. It wasn’t tiny, and it was tasty, but was still probably overpriced at £8.95. The other starter, Manor Farm asparagus with poached duck egg, parsley crumb and Winchester cheese (£7.25) met expectations, with the hard cheese filings particularly interesting.
All the mains we went for were £12.95, the West Country goats cheese, roasted beet, orange and pickled carrot salad being the main of choice for one of our party; with a side of chips, because sometimes you just need chips. She described the salad as light and refreshing; a well-balanced combination of creamy, tangy and sweet, and a perfect summer dish. It certainly looked vibrant and almost fomo-worthy.
The other two of us each went for the ale-battered fish served with triple cooked chips, peas, thick homemade tartar sauce and a chunk of lemon. It was a great choice. The batter was not too greasy, hard or strong of flavour, and the fish beneath it was soft and delicious, though we never did discover what fish it was. The triple cooked chips were fluffy, crunchy and piping hot, the requested mayonnaise homemade, and the ketchup the ideal glass-bottled Heinz. The peas were thankfully unminted or mushied, and served in a little ceramic dish on the plate to protect them from depressingly rolling into the condiments. It was a testament to how good a fish and chips it was that when the time came for triaging the rest of the plate for impending fullness, one of us prioritised the fish and the other the chips. The only sadness of the dish was provided by the dish itself. Rather than a regular plate it was a very pretty bowl-plate with a precarious tipping point not far from the centre.
The puddings sounded tempting, English and often jam-based, but sadly we didn’t think we’d manage them. After rejecting dessert it did take rather a long time to get the bill, and longer still to correct it with a discount entitled to us by our Irregular Folk Summer Sessions wristbands, but the service on the whole was decent.
Overall it's good quality food in a pretty setting. You're kind of charged for the view too, but when it's that good, it's just about worth it.
On a warm Saturday afternoon their pleasant outdoor eating area was packed and lots of people were being turned away, although they managed to squeeze us in indoors. Bread came swiftly and was free; slightly toasted and high in quality, if limited in quantity. Tap water was also swiftly provided, without fuss.
The focus is not really on the beer, and the choice of ale was rather limited; on a hot day, most people seemed to be clutching a pint of San Miguel Premium. The wine list looked enticing, though really quite expensive; we didn’t delve into it. The outdoor bar is a great improvement on the old layout and even with a full garden there were no queues.
We had a rather unconventional meal, trying four of the starters and just a single main – this seemed a good choice, as each starter was interesting and delightful. A fabulously rich and creamy cauliflower crème brulee was not overpowered by its crispy parmesan topping, with the taste of the vegetable coming through clearly without any hint of brassica pong. A very meaty ham terrine was matched well by an artistically-drizzled green apple compote and port reduction. My partner particularly liked the terrine’s garnish of baby pea shoots: the combination of pea leaf, pork and apple worked really well.
The highlight of the starters for me was the chicken liver parfait, which arrived in a cute individual mason jar and was unbelievably smooth and richly flavoured. We were also blown away by the ‘nibble’ of marinated goat’s cheese with peppers and capers, which didn’t sound or look like much but tasted unbelievable.
After this cornucopia of miniature delights, the ‘Moorish’ main of Moroccan-style mixed grilled meat and aubergines was rather a disappointment. The aubergines and lamb kofte kebab lacked flavour, and while the merguez were tasty they weren't particularly uninspired – overall, not as good value for money than the very individual and quite sizeable starters.
Service was great; they were very flexible despite having to deal with a lot of tables, and we didn’t have to wait long for anything. A new summer menu has just been rolled out, replacing the spring menu we chose from – but they still have the chicken parfait and marinated goat’s cheese. It’s worth a wander across the meadow one evening this summer for those alone.
There are loads of good things about the Perch. It’s a beautiful setting: a lovely building in fantastic gardens, and, reached in the chill dusk after a walk along the canal and across Port Meadow, it looms like a storybook hostelry lit up in the half-light, promising warmth, sustenance, and good cheer. Inside, the reality is much more modern, but the old world quality is maintained with exposed beams, a huge fireplace, and slightly cottage-y décor, including wall-mounted plates with mirrors set in their centres, charmingly mismatched milk jugs and a proper bone-handled butter knife. Service is definitely up-to-the-minute, though; staff are shyly welcoming, showing very distinct personalities, and very efficient.
Our starters were both good, although proscuitto with celeriac remoulade edged ahead of the goat’s cheese salad with walnut and wafer-thin radish. The Perch strikes a good balance in terms of portion size; starters and desserts are small and delicious, and main courses reasonably substantial; some verging on the hearty in my view - which means you get to try different dishes without exploding, but that hopefully people with big appetites won’t be left feeling underfed as can sometimes happen in comparable establishments. The bread they give you while you wait to order is super; soft and quite salty and ever so slightly warm and doughy. They only give you a little, which is good because otherwise I would have eaten loads of it. Mains: It’s difficult to praise a steak – what do you say? This was a good steak, good quality, well cooked; though I could wish that a French restaurant would plump for a more flavourful French cut, instead of a safe but dull sirloin. The Duck Confit with a white bean cassoulet and spinach was a bit too much for me, although on reflection, as I ate pretty much all of it, maybe it wasn’t. Very rich, on the salty side for confit, and quite simple, this dish was tasty but overpowering. It needed the addition of the spinach to tone it down, and for my tastes, would have benefited from a contrasting flavour to break it up. But maybe I’m weak. There’s also a totally tempting wine list – much of it out of my price range. I wish they offered more by the glass, but I can understand why they don’t, and what they did offer was very good.
Pudding was smashing. My companion, not always one for the gastronomic experience, was a little taken aback when presented with the tiniest cheesecake you’ve ever seen, but he very soon conceded that the portion size was devilishly well thought out, delivering a potent sugar and fat hit without over-facing the diner. I was still struggling happily with a lemon tart (sharp, nice bitter sauce) of more conventional dimensions a good ten minutes later.
I liked the Perch a lot, and will certainly return. It’s definitely more restaurant than pub, so I imagine it’s better to plan to have lunch rather than just a drink in the garden, but the food and the location are both worth the walk out of town. £85 for two people, three courses with wine and coffee.
Beautiful location and environment. The garden is wonderful with overflowing willows and a cornucopia of flowers. Yet sadly the food is totally overpriced and the quality poor for what you are paying. The whole french thing and raising the standards for a michelin star is all well and good but sadly the food is early nineties in its aesthetic and the menu selection below par.
We were very disappointed with the attention from the staff and hot on the trigger managers who made us feel very uncomfortable. I feel the Perch needs to discover its roots and listen to the public views, listen to the clientele. Everyone is crying out for humble food at a good fair price. And I am not talking pies and your average fair. After all The Perch is a pub, after all.
I wait to see what the Perch has in-store, it could be a wonderful place with the incredible positioning lying plush upon Port Meadow overlooking the river. I feel that the Perch has fallen behind and needs to catch up - look at the Turl Kitchen, The Vaults, Blanc. All are offering great food in their own right, fresh produce from local sources yet the price is fair. And the staff to match - at least we don't feel threatened there. There seems to be a swagger and arrogance with the Perch? Why?
Should Pubs not be steeped in warmth and wholesome food and warm fires?
The Perch is situated by the river a short walk from Oxford City. It has a great garden and used to be a really good place to go and you could get food. I have known the pub for over 40 years. This weekend, the hottest of the year, I found that the drinks were mega expensive, they didn't have Guiness and no food! They have a restaurant but you have to book in advance and although there were more than half a dozen empty tables they said they were full. We bought the expensive drinks and stayed for an hour in the garden and the tables were never filled (inside was empty) very disappointing.
If the Perch is going to go for the haute cuisine angle and charge those kinds of prices then it really needs to improve. Alternatively it could provide a menu and service that you would more readily associate with an idyllic English country pub. Yes - rustic pies, locally sourced steak, Sunday roasts, mash, Yorkshire puddings, gallons of thick gravy, dark brooding ales, rhubarb crumble, summer puddings, honey meads - viva la revolution!
Having eaten in France many times it is not like that there and I feel they are trying to prove some snobbish foodie point. Having said that the food and ambience were magnificent. No matter how good the food is or the atmosphere- please remember to attract customers you have to look after them not make them feel stupid when they ask you questions about the menu.
We had a main course and a dessert and both were wonderful. The lamb was so well-cooked that it fell off the bone. The fish was very tasty and even the people who usually don't like eating a whole fish (it is served with skin and everything), very much enjoyed the dish. The scallops were cooked to perfection.
The desserts were very tasty too; l'amour du chocolat had several wonderful flavours and was not too heavy (as some chocolate desserts are), the passion fruit mousse was nice and refreshing, and the cheese platter had a good variety of cheeses nicely served with biscuits and grapes.
Unfortunately the playground in the garden has been closed down, but the patience of the staff still makes this a very child friendly place.
If you're looking for bangers and mash and a large variety of ales - like some of the other reviewers -, this is not your place. If you are looking for more refined food with wonderful tastes and textures and enjoy a good glass of wine and appreciate a nice location you should find the Perch just as wonderful as we did. We will certainly come back.
Insiders have long known The Perch in Binsey to be a little gem. A mere twenty-minute stroll along the meandering Isis river brings one away from the centre to a hidden world of thatched cottages, well-removed from the throng of bright-eyed students and camera-toting tourists.
Under French management now and with a French head chef, this establishment is attempting to compliment its undoubted charm with quite ambitious cooking.
An enticing open fire and luxuriant leather coach greeted our arrival, while that stalwart of any rural pub, the large, dopey dog, lurched beside the bar. Elegant menus were presented and, with a variety of alluring choices, we confronted the dilemma of what to order.
The wine list is short but eclectic and, in a welcome development, beverages are paired with dishes. Obviously restaurants should avoid being prescriptive about this, but I find it encouraging that chef and sommelier have taken the time to work out interesting combinations and are communicating their conclusions to the customer.
As an aperitif, I chose a glass of dulcet Moscato paired with the gravlax starter, making that decision quite straightforward. For my main I persisted with the fishy theme, ordering Cornish scallops which I have trouble resisting. With Coquilles St Jacques in the hands of a Frenchman I expected satisfaction.
The gravlax dish was a splendid arrangement, lustrous pickled cucumber and beetroot providing a lush accompaniment to the coiled salmon that I charmed towards my expectant gullet with the whirling motion of a fork; while the horseradish cream gave the ensemble a hearty balance and the wine was indeed well matched. My dining companion seemed to enjoy her pan-fried foie gras and roasted pigeon breast, but for all its elegance, I was thoroughly absorbed by my own dish.
After a judicious break the mains arrived and while visually my choice did not arrest to the extent of the starter, it proved enjoyable, the braised chicory and Noilly sauce combining with the mussels, chorizo and scallops to good effect.
My companion meanwhile was presented with an elegant medley of pork belly, sausage and sauerkraut: the effect overall was Alsatian, with an architectural arrangement faintly reminiscent of the glorious city of Colmar. Its splendour was, however, soon laid low with gusto – the inevitable fate of comestible ephemera, alas.
Now almost replete, I chose the Café Gourmand de Chef which provided an assortment of profiteroles and mousses of an intoxicating blend that lived up to the billing which our helpful waiter had given. Ideal preparation for the walk back to the centre.
With mains under the £20 mark, and most starters offered for less than half that, The Perch offers fine dining at prices that don’t make you flinch. Roll on the summer when its wonderful garden comes into its own.
We wanted fire, jugglers and musicians. They accommodated us with everything including adding some suggestions of their own to make this a perfect day.
They also catered for 90 seated people and the food was out of this world. I would recommend this pub to anyone wanting to have a wedding, a party or any unique celebration.
Thanks again, for making this such a great day.
We hadn't booked a table and the place was absolutely full and buzzing. We enquired about getting a table without much hope, but were told that if we were happy to have a drink and wait 20 minutes, they should be able to sit us down. We decided to wait and were soon escorted to a lovely table with views of the garden. The staff were very helpful and well-mannered. All our questions and requirements were answered gracefully. We had the choice of 2 roasts, a traditional roast beef, served deliciously rare, and what we were told is a French tradition, the poulet roti! We tried one of each and they were both very good. Simple, honest food, beautifully presented. I just wish we had kept room for pudding...as is suggested on the menu! We will definitely go back.
Went again tonight and it was slightly better. Not so busy, which suits the slightly chaotic service. The menu is so so, but quite short. 5 starters and 6 main, no extras (unless you ask, when they admit that they do serve vegetables, or chips, or mash etc). Only 1 main course is fish, 1 is veggie, and 4 out of the 6 contained ham or sausage. No beef or chicken, which is a bit odd. Food was quite good, as was the dessert. If you ask, they'll do some kid's options (though no actual kid's menu). I would say not as good as the Trout or Anchor, but better than the Fishes.
It is a lovely setting- I just wish they could get their act together a bit more....
Went for dinner there on the week-end and had an abolutely marvellous experience. The Perch has finally been restored to its full potential and it is lovely to see young people with such passion trying to keep such a place alive and thriving.
Well done to The Perch team, keep up the good work!
During my last visit, however, I was greatly disappointed to see that the magic had disappeared. The staff seemed bored and perhaps not as attentive as one would expect them to be. I have always received good care from the staff, and extremely good quality food in the past. Unfortunately this was not the case on my last visit. The menu has become more and more difficult to digest. I don't speak French, so it is extremely hard to know what each dish is, as the menu is written mostly in French!
Generally I found the whole experience quite uncomfortable, perhaps made worse by managers that looked happy to float around. The waitress that was seeing to us did a good job in that she managed to put the plates on the table in the right places, however.
I think that the new owner has done a great job in restoring the charming property to its original beauty. They certainly take pride in the appearence of the pub as is correct, but maybe too much attention is being paid to the arrangement of the flowers.
All in all a very disappointing visit, and sad to say my last.
A wonderful welcoming place to eat or drink on any occasion.
One guest whose medical condition made a special menu necessary was grateful that it was provided with no fuss. We ourselves would like to single out Francois' helpfulness in planning the event, and the unexpected extra touches of a magnificent ruby red flower arrangement and red roses and rose petals on the table.
Our starters (confit of Beef Wellington and Moules Normandes) were both OK but no more and the chicken main course was lacking in flavour, was slightly dry and overcooked and the portion far too meagre to justify the price. However I must admit the "Toulouse Sausages" with Parsnip mash were first class, juicy, flavoursome and the rich onion jus was quite delicious. Still, one out of four is simply not good enough and we felt it was shame not to have a gastronomic haven in such perfect surroundings.
I was left feeling as though I could have cooked better at home which is surely the opposite of what one expects when dining out.
All in all, a below par experience. We might try it again at a later date if only to sample the bar food. Maybe Crepes and Croque-Monsieurs will be handled with a bit more dexterity and oomph and sitting in the delightful garden might make up for our previous let down...
Good, if limited menu; good, if limited wine list. But every dish we had, including the vegetarian option, was judged to be superb, interesting, beautifully cooked and undeniably French. Big plates make portions appear small, but the quality of both ingredients and cooking compensate for what is, after all, only an impression. We could recommend any of the dishes we ate, but I was particularly impressed with the smoked salmon starter and the magret de canard cooked more rosé than the French do it at home but of a flavour that will remain engraved in my taste-buds for ever! We all agreed the home-made brown bread with rosemary, honey and mustard in the dough was a triumph!
The wine, a Chateau de Bel Air Lussac St Emilion 2005 served at exactly the right temperature, having been opened to breath for about half an hour, was exquisite but expensive at just under £40 a bottle, but the over-all price for a top notch three-course dinner for the five of us at £193 seemed to us to offer good value for money.
This was a truly pleasurable experience.
I had duck breast followed by carpaccio of pineapple and must say that it was a very enjoyable meal. The duck was cooked to perfection - tasty and tender - and the pineapple dessert is one of the best I have had in a long time.
I agree that some of the menu does seem a little steep but the quality of the meal that my wife and I had was fantastic and we enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere of the place as well, so all in all it was a very worthwhile trip across the meadow.
Good luck to them!
Just back from the Perch for Sunday lunch. I should have read the reviews here before. As mentioned there, we found the drink and food uninspired and for what it is, heavily overpriced. Will not go back!
The bar offers an ok wine list but is subpar on the beer. Only two mediocre ales and three draft lagers.
We had the Cauliflowers [sic] and stilton soup for £4 each. Creamy but much too strong on the stilton. For main the Roast Beef Sunday Special for £14. Rare meat (as ordered) but not crispy on the outside, huge batons (finger size) of undercooked swede and carrots, a broccoli floret, a single baked potato, a floppy Yorkshire pudding and some watery gravy. Bad value.
The other main, "Aubergine Gateau with peppers and tomato sauce" was a parcel of couscous with some pistachios and dried fruit wrapped in paper thin aubergine slices. Few shredded raw peppers on top and a spoonful of tomato sauce. No seasoning. Very disappointing. Particularly with a price tag of £12.
The staff team are definitely friendly, but it's difficult to get the attention of the waiters and waitresses! This is a pub that does great food, not a restaurant that offers a great pub. The service reflects this kind of ethos. Great for dropping in to for some nosh after a cold walk but not somewhere to go for a fine dining experience.
There were only 5 choices of main course, none of which sounded particularly inspiring, yet were decidedly on the expensive side. We asked and there were no specials. I've only once ever got up and left a restaurant after being seated due to the unappealing choice/price combination of the menu, and I was very close again on this occassion.
The fish of the day dish at £18 consisted of half a sea bass on lemon herbed mash potatoes with a couple of small pieces of broccoli and sauce. It was well presented and reportedly tasted good but not worthy of that price. I had the Lamb Shank at £17 which was overly salty and not nearly tender enough. This was served with beans (like baked beans but firmer and tastier, and in a slightly spicy sauce). That was all I would have got had I not asked for some potato. They didn't charge extra for the portion of mash potato but then I should hope not!
For dessert we both had a delicious crème brulée, but to be honest I've never had a bad crème brulée. It's a simple dish to make but cost £6 each.
It's a pity. It's a nice pub with decent service and if it had a bigger choice of dishes at a lower average price then we might be tempted to give it another go.
We had a party of 6. The lamb shank neededmuch longer in the oven in order to get suitably tender and was terribly, terribly salty. The cabbage roll was tough. The risotto was adequate, but not terribly tasty. On the plus side, the soup was nice. And the side of vegetables excellent. But most of the prices were, we thought, 25-30% higher than what they should have been the quality of the food.
We'd love to see the Perch become a real destination (it is such a nice spot) but, sadly, until they sort the kitchen out in a sharpish kind of way, it is likely to be a place that people visit once and then, like us, wait for the reviews to improve.
They reopened last weekend and last night we seized our first opportunity to see what it is like. The car park was almost deserted and very dark and the pub looked gloomy on a rather chilly evening, but we could see they were open as there were a few people inside.
The sofas by the fire were as welcoming as ever and the reception from the staff was pretty good too. So we sat with a drink to peruse the menu which looked quite appropriate, nothing too fancy and just enough choice. Before I had finished my nice pint of Hookey we had decided what we would eat.
Two waitresses and the manager were close at hand and not at all busy, but nobody came to ask us what we would like. I finished my pint and one of them came and took away the empty glass without asking if I would like a refill! My wife found the wine not to her liking. We were both disappointed – perhaps we had expected too much.
We sat for half an hour before I handed back the menu and said we would eat elsewhere. The waitress said she hoped we would return as next week they expected to have “the full menu” available.
I had Boeuf Bourginion to follow, which came with potato cake and fresh baby carrots; excellent. My wife had moules which she was similarly very pleased with. The French staff were friendly and attentive, they explained they had been in business for around eight weeks, having taken over and cleaned up the operation.
We had a 50cl pitcher of wine and I asked for (and they happily provided) a free jug of tap water with ice and lemon. Total bill around £40 before service. I'd recommend highly. It wasn't busy on the Friday night, though they reported they can be booked out over the weekends.
So high praise, though it was a bit cool in the restaurant as it's at the other end of the room from the fire (it was sub-zero outside). You might take a jumper.